Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Anatomy of Exposition: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

“The Anatomy of Exposition: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos” by Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor of The College Church, Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of numerous volumes, including Disciplines of a Godly Man, Disciplines of Grace, and the extremely popular Preaching the Word series. From: The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Volume 3, Summer, 1999. Available at Accessed 08/04/2012

     Hughes begins his article with a treatise on what he refers to as “dis-exposition,” a pejorative term meaning a bevy of things other than exposition. As an example, he mentions the de-contexted sermon, the moralized sermon, the lensed sermon, the doctrinalized sermon and the silenced sermon. All of these are sermons where the preacher focuses on his own pet peeves or sugar stick topics instead of finding the exegesis and preaching that. He might, as Hughes mentions, preach a Christmas sermon from Revelation 11:10: ““And those who dwell on the earth will
rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another.” “Surely not?” the serious expositor may ask. But it did happen.

     The idea behind Hughes’ article is that preachers must turn from the pop psychology of “felt needs” and return to biblical based preaching that focuses on an exegetical, expositional approach. He quotes William Willimon, Dean of the Chapel at Duke University as saying,

Do you know how disillusioning it has been for me to realize that many of these self-proclaimed biblical preachers now sound more like liberal mainliners than liberal mainliners? At the very time those of us in the mainline, old-line, sidelined were repenting of our pop psychological pap and rediscovering the joy of disciplined biblical preaching, these “biblical preachers” were becoming “user-friendly” and “inclusive,” taking their Homiletical cues from the “felt needs” of us “boomers” and “busters” rather than the excruciating demands of the Bible. I know why they do this. After all, we mainline-liberal-experiential- expressionists played this game before the conservative evangelical reformed got there… The psychology of the gospel—reducing salvation to self esteem, sin to maladjustment, church to group therapy, and Jesus to Dear Abby— is our chief means of perverting the biblical text.”
Hughes then explains that the answer to resolving this plight among evangelicals is reverting back to the basic Homiletical underpinning of logos, ethos, and pathos.

In Logos, Hughes sees the crux of exposition as bound up in Biblical authority. Do we cherish the authority and potency of the Bible? Without the proper correlation between the Bible authority and its impact on a believers life, preaching loses its most vital role; transformation. Through a proper understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit as Scriptures author, we understand that preaching that word then activates the power of the Spirit for transformation in the life of the believer and for salvation for the unbeliever.

In ethos, Hughes writes that, “Biblical exposition is enhanced when the preacher invites the Holy Spirit to apply the text to his own soul and ethical conduct.” In other words, he is saying that truth in and through preaching start in a then comes through the man. Who we are as men will dictate how successful we are as expositors. Preaching is more about what comes through us as opposed to what passes through our lips.

Lastly, he focuses on pathos, the preacher’s passion. This is to be Spirit directed passion, not trumped up feelings for the audience’s sake. Martin Llyod-Jones calls that “method acting for preachers.” Instead, the preacher should be alive with the text, what it means for him and his people. When the text is properly exposited, he will have passion galore to share that good word and the good news of his Savior.

Hughes’ article is funny, well researched, and thoughtful. He balances the subjects of expository preaching, homiletics, and human nature in a light hearted but profound way. I would highly recommend the article to a preacher just beginning his Homiletical studies, or to an old timer that needs a refreshing on the subject.